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FLAC vs CD (is the CD audio lossless in relation to the audio equipment?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

While it is good to rip CD audio to a lossless format to preserve as much quality as possible. I am wondering, would we get better audio quality if the studios were to export directly to FLAC or another lossless format?


Basically, I am wondering if that will offer better quality or is there no loss between the studio equipment and the CD?

post #2 of 7
Herm... I think that CD quality is in MP3 format to save space but I'm not really sure. It could be in WAV for all I know.
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

I was mainly asking in terms of the actual physical CD, would you get better quality audio if the studio was to export directly too FLAC, VS the quality that the user would get from listening to a physical CD (assuming that there were no scratches or any other issues with the CD?

post #4 of 7

No.  CD is 44.1kHz 16bit uncompressed.  You can rip a CD uncompressed and you get the exact thing bit for bit (provided your CD drive doesn't screw up).  Any lossless file type is just compressing that data.  Lossless means when you play back that file it is exactly the same as the original.  The difference is that your device has to decompress the file.  So the smaller the file size, the harder your device has to work to decompress it.


Lossy compression is a different matter.  Lossy file types like MP3, AAC, OGG, approximate the original file to save a ton of space while being "good enough" for the application.  In this case bitrate specifies how much you sacrifice in order to save space.  It's the same thing as JPEG images vs. PNG.  JPEG files often look just as good as the original, but if they're compressed too much you can clearly tell the image is distorted.  PNG is lossless, and is identical to the original image.


Edit: If you're worried about errors in ripping a CD, just use a program that checks for errors.  I use EAC.  Any glitches you get without error checking is obvious.  Like skipping or a clicking sound.  So rest easy that your CD ripping is giving you the best quality.  That's the beauty of digital formats.

Edited by ZeNmAc - 12/15/13 at 12:19am
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

So in that case, there will be no difference in quality if the studio that made the song exported their final product directly to a for mat like FLAC, VS producing a CD?


So will I be correct in assuming that a direct studio export of a song to FLAC, will be of the same quality ad a perfect rip of a music CD, to FLAC?


Or will a studio do something like use a higher sampling rate and bit depth which may be lost in the conversion to 44.1kHz and 16 bit?


(basically trying to get at if it would be better for music studios to directly release FLAC audio for people to buy)

Edited by Razor512 - 12/15/13 at 12:38am
post #6 of 7

Oh I'm sure they record in higher resolution and bit depth.  But as far as 16/44.1 goes, there's no difference between CD and FLAC.


Quick crash course.  There are two factors affecting the quality of the digital file:


Sampling rate (44.1kHz): How many digital samples are taken each second.  The more samples you take, the higher possible frequency you can record without errors.  44.1kHz theoretically is more than enough to reproduce human range of hearing (< 20ish kHz).


Bit Depth (16 bit): Affects three things.  Resolution - How accurate each sample is.  There will always be some rounding error when you convert an analog level into a digital one.  The more bits you have each sample, the closer you are to the true analog level.  Signal to Noise Ratio - How much noise (due to rounding errors) is present in the signal.  Dynamic Range - The difference in volume between the quietest possible sound, and the loudest possible sound.


So you can see, we can technically benefit from increased bit depth, but 16 bit is already very good.  24 bit pushes the limit of the DACs and ADCs we use.  Increasing the sampling rate theoretically will not provide an audible difference, but it can be useful for other reasons.


Studios do record in higher resolution files like 24/192.  We don't get these files though, because 16/44.1 is the standard for CD's.  16/44.1 is already very good and lossless files are already big enough.  Once you increase either of the two factors the file size increases very quickly.  Heck, we can't even get lossless 16/44.1 downloads because enough people are happy with MP3s that it is not cost effective for companies to give us lossless files.  There's simply not enough motivation for companies to provide us with better files.

post #7 of 7

Higher definition audio discs were tried long ago - and generally failed miserably, except within the very small world of summit-fi.

Also see: http://www.sa-cd.net/
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